Wow. After reading all of the comments about the Ulta experience in general, I really had to chime in. I want to preface this by saying that this is only MY opinion based on my needs and preferences--I know that there are a lot of you out there that love this store and have no problem giving them your business. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
I live in Central NJ and live about 25 miles away from the nearest Sephora, so I rarely get an opportunity to shop there. When I found out an Ulta was opening up in the Princeton area I was thrilled as my impression at the time was that Ulta was basically a clone of the Sephora shopping experience. I quickly learned that it wasn't after experiencing the following:
1. I've never had a problem with a SA being rude, but boy are they persistent. During one store visit they interrupted me three times in 15 minutes, and it got to the point where I had to keep out of the common areas of the store to be left alone. Ironically enough, when I wandered into the "prestige" skin care section, a sales rep from one of the skin care lines was there doing some kind of product promotion. When she looked up and saw me (let's just say I wasn't looking too photogenic that day) I could see in her eyes that apparently I wasn't the right "demographic" for the product and and I was ignored. So much for wanting to "help" me.
2. Speaking of "prestige," when I made my first couple of purchases at Ulta I requested samples and they were given to me. The next time I asked for a sample I was told that I was only entitled to them if I purchased a "prestige" brand. That's a little freakin' ridiculous. Sephora has always given me samples regardless of the brand I've purchased, and I can name examples of other stores as well. Ulta needs to get off their high horse with their whole "prestige" attitude when it comes to makeup assistance, coupons, samples, etc. because frankly, I can probably get the same "prestige" product at a much better price at an online retailer, eBay, or a brick-and-mortar store. Get a clue, Ulta: asking for samples is not a big deal, I'm not saying I should just walk in off the street and ask for them without buying something, but if you had given me a sample that day, perhaps I would have come in and bought the product during a later visit. Gee, isn't that what samples are for, to generate more purchases? And then perhaps more customers will interested in purchasing more of those "prestige" brands that you have such an attitude about. Everyone wins! (Pardon my snark.)
3. Here's another clue, Ulta: when you mark an item as "clearance" and throw it into a bin with a whole bunch of other stuff that may be cracked, smeared, or leaky, it truly needs to be a "clearance" level price. Please walk the few steps over to Walmart or Target to learn what a realistic idea of a "clearance" price means, because yours isn't it.
4. Speaking of the above, plus CVS, Walgreens, RiteAid, etc., as many of you have already mentioned, if you wear drugstore makeup you'll pay much less at those types of stores, and the discount stores have great sales and coupons also. Some drugstores even have no-questions-asked return policies on makeup now, even if you've tested it. Same goes for the bath/body/personal care products--Burt's Bees, Bodycology, Watkins, Badger, etc., all can be found cheaper elsewhere.
5. I had a brow wax at the Ulta salon that had me bent back over a shampoo sink, then after the wax was removed, there was just a little tweezing here and there, no shaping or trimming. Thankfully I had a half-off coupon for this because this service normally costs a whopping $20. Granted, the stylist did a great job and was extremely professional, but in my neck of the woods $20 gets you a brow wax done in a private room on a TABLE, with tweezing and shaping. I certainly wasn't expecting a day spa experience, but if I want to be bent over a shampoo sink to get waxed I can go to a nail salon and pay $8.
I can see why someone would want to shop here if they truly enjoy the convenience of having so many varied brands and price points of beauty items in one store, or if they have an "I-want-this-NOW!" item (like Urban Decay's Naked) that they don't want to wait to order online. (No disrespect meant--I've been there! :) ) Otherwise, I just can't fathom any reason to shop there. Let's face it, we all the know the markup on beauty products and I would rather spend money with a company that values my business and gives me a pleasant, uncomplicated shopping experience. In my opinion, Ulta doesn't provide it, which is why I take my business elsewhere.
EDIT: I recently went back to Ulta (a coupon lured me in) and I'm pleased to say that the overalll vibe of my local store has improved. I had a much more pleasant shopping experience and I was even able to find a few goodies in the clearance bin! I still prefer Sephora but I'm glad that Ulta & I are on better terms now :)
I shop at Ulta about once a month when I have a coupon and need some basics, like my cleanser or makeup wedges. I can understand why some people dislike the restrictions on the coupons, but I rarely buy from the "prestige" side of the store anyway, so it's really not too big of a deal to me.
As far as the SAs, I have had a mixed bag of experiences in this regard. I have come across some very nice ones, as well as some very rude ones. When I went in to purchase the PTR Unwrinkle Peel Pads, the SA at the register gave me 20% off of them without my even asking, even though I had no coupon with me and that item would have normally been restricted. That was a wonderful surprise! Although, at that same store, I had a really bad experience with another SA who basically insulted my face in what I can only assume was an attempt to push skincare products. So, much like life, some people are nice and some are not.
I like the way the stores are set up, the variety of products offered, and I also have always found Ulta to be clean and well-kept. I have returned items there with no issue whatsoever. Overall, I like the store and will continue to shop there.
I like Ulta but I understand some of the hate. I definitely feel like the salespeople are way too pushy - I had someone ask me 3 times in 10 minutes if I needed help with anything, and they always try to sell me random stuff every time I go in there. I know they have to get business for the store, and it's probably some corporate bs that gets pushed on them, but it's annoying.
That being said, I love the concept of the store: you can buy drugstore products, high-end makeup, perfume, hair products, etc. all in one place. I do think their prices on d/s stuff are a little steep but they send coupons and have sales frequently enough that I don't feel like I'm breaking the bank. I only really go there if I have a coupon, or if I want something that I know I can't get anywhere else close to where I live (it's the only place I've found NYX products in my area, for example). Their sales on the Ulta store brand are particularly good, and they have some nice exclusive sets once in a while that are good deals. I've never tried the salon, but the lady at the Benefit brow bar seemed knowledgeable so I'd consider going there for a brow wax.
Overall, I like the store but don't go there very often, only when I'm looking for something in particular. When I do go the experience is just okay.
I don't love Ulta. The assistants are usually unpleasant, or at least disinterested, then nail polish area is a mess, and they are often out of what I want. I don't buy any prestige cosmetics there unless it's an after Christmas blow out or something, because I can't use a coupon. I prefer to shop at Sephora for my prestige cosmetics, I find the assistants more helpful and a greater selection. However, I go to Ulta for all my hair care products becuase they often have buy 2 get 1 free sales, and I can use my coupons on that.
I too didn't like I was asked for all sorts of personal info at my last visit and I just told them, "No." Especially if you pay in cash, they can't make you give your phone number!
i have to throw in my two cents here too - i have a love/hate relationship with them also. i wonder sometimes why they offer coupons because they're always so restricted that it borders on ridiculous. and i'm not really diggin the recent changes they've made to their rewards program either. i got a haircut certificate this last time around - that was it - no other choices like you used to get. i don't want my haircut there, thanks, i usually see a lot of empty chairs in my local one so um, nothanks., pass. filled my bad haircut quota already. LOL And stock also is an issue for me too - i go looking for something in particular but you got it - i'm usually S.O.L. BUT i have to say they do carry a pretty complete line of ds stuff that is ALWAYS out of stock at my local drug stores, so i usually get lucky there. i will definitely keep going., but they need to get their $h!# together.
I was just at the BURBANK, CA Ulta yesterday, needed to buy several things but they were out of stock on almost everything I needed.The SA that rang me up was actually nice,(I think she is new) that is not usually the case when I go there. Most of the girls that ring me up are very rude. A simple Hello, or goodbye have a nice day goes a long way. If I say Hi, or Thankyou, I never get a reply. And I HATE having to return something because although they accept the returns ( I have done 2 returns in the past year) the SA makes me feel uncomfortable, and looks very annoyed. I just bought the Japonesque brush cleaner and it is terrible. I dread having to go back in there. I usually go there out of conveniance.
So I need to rant... I have been an devoted Ulta shopper for some time, as Sephora and MAC are 30 miles away. RecentlyI have returned a couple of products that didn't work out for me. The last one being a clinique product that I returned and hadn't opened. So with the receipt in hand I was going to exchange it for a benefit product, but the store didn't have it in stock. So the manager( yes the employees aren't even trusted to do a simple return! Geez) informed me because my ulta rewards points were in the negative, she could only give me store credit. I didn't want store credit...I wanted my money back to spend at MAC. So I mentioned to her if I had not had a rewards card to begin with there would be no record of any negative points. She agreed! Told me there was nothing she could do, and proceeded to ask me for my address on the cash voucher. You comin to my house...I asked! Why do they need my address? She said it's for our corporate office, but they don't use it! Freakin ridiculous!!! Everytime I go in Sephora they give me a samples and a bonus. Never has Ulta given me any kind of gift or reward. They are a joke and I hope they go bankrupt. I can get all the drugstore stuff for cheaper in target, and I will drive the 30 min to go to Sephora where they obviously appreciate my business! Good bye Ulta!
Hmmmm, I'm really confused by all the negative reviews about Ulta. I can't go very often because the nearest one is about 3 hours away. I really like Ulta, they have the cosmetics and hair products I can't get at home. Like my LaCoupe deep conditioner. I've always had a good experience, and no SA has been snotty. I love Ultaa! :D
Woah, what's with the Ulta hate?
The only time I've had a problem with them was back during their rare sale where they let you use coupons on High End items also. I found it unfair that a select few shoppers were sent physical coupons to use in store and the rest had to buy online to get the discount. I was confused and asked one of the associates about it and I admit she did get kind of snotty, basically telling me only customers who spent alot of money there were deserving of said coupon. That miffed me for a bit but was the only bad time I've had.
Just this week, I headed to Ulta with a $3.50 off $10 coupon to buy some Physician's Formula mineral foundation, which is, in my opinion, pricey for drugstore. It's $13.99 at Ulta. But I lucked out and got the last one that still had a vendors coupon for $4 off. And they let me use both. So I got the foundation for about $6.50, which is awesome for Physician's Formula products.
I've also never had a problem returning/exchanging. I have super sensitive skin and alot of things react to me. They always take things back, with receipt of course. I haven't tried without; I keep my receipts knowing there's the possibility it won't work.
Oh, in the negative column - they keep products FAR to long. They've had the same items in clearance for over a year at mine. And not changed the price. Many look to have been opened and used. That's gross to me. I could maybe see someone paying a dollar or two for something they can tell had been opened but they seem to cut off the clearance around five bucks, which to me is to much to risk someone else's germs. Ew.
And I do have to agree with those saying STEER CLEAR OF THE "SALON". I got my eyebrows done there 1 time because it had been a while and they were having a sale. I think it was all salon services only $5 or something. So the setup was very professional for the brow station but the lady doing it got way to close for my taste and did a horrible job. One side was almost bare. Thankfully it was the side I wear my bangs pushed to. She was also far to rough and it was one of the few times my brows swelled and turned red post-wax. But she kindly asked if I wanted concealer put on the red parts. *eyeroll* AND! If I'd paid full price, it would have been $18. And she was there when they rang me up so I felt like I had to tip anyway. I gave a very small one though. It looked so bad.
Since an Ulta opened roughly two years ago in my area, I have been going there pretty much exclusively to buy whatever I need beauty-wise (with the exception of Target and health food stores). It has been a great store in meeting most of my needs.
Let me preface this by saying that I pretty much like to be left to my own devices when I am shopping for makeup or anything else. Stores like Sephora intimidate me to no end with the staff walking around, so I prefer Ulta's environment. For the most part, the sales associates have not bothered me or been exceptionally pushy, except on a couple of occasions. I have only been to one store in my area, so I don't know if experiences will differ. When I have needed help with finding something, the staff have been obliging.
I really like the coupons they offer. It does save me money when I am buying the basics (I usually stick to the drugstore end of the store), and it is probably the one thing that keeps me coming back. I can understand the frustration that others have about not being able to use them on the higher-end brands, so that is something to be wary of.
The major point of frustration for me has been the store website. I find it most frustrating to just check my information and update things such as my address. For whatever reason, it just seems incredibly hard to do. I have never ordered anything online because of this. Awhile back, I wanted to learn more about the rewards program connected to the Club Card, and asked a sales associate how you could check up on the points you had accumulated. The answer: There was no way to check your status on the website, but you had to call someone to do it for you. Really? Why so difficult? In the end, it is no great loss for me, since I do not spend a significant amount of money to probably even qualify for any gifts anyway. If you are someone who does accumulate a lot of points though, you may or may not like this aspect, depending.
In summary, I will wind up frequenting the store solely for the coupon deals and the selection of brands that are difficult to find elsewhere, such as NYX.